The Great Zoo of China – Matthew Reilly [Review]

The Great Zoo of China cover The Great Zoo of China is a standalone novel by Matthew Reilly.

Pocket Books published The Great Zoo of China on August 25, 2015. The story includes elements of science fiction, adventure, and suspense.


Now in mass-market—the action-packed thriller in the blockbuster and bestselling tradition of Jurassic Park from #1 internationally bestselling author Matthew Reilly!

It is a secret the Chinese government has been keeping for forty years. They have proven the existence of dragons—a landmark discovery no one could ever believe is real, and a scientific revelation that will amaze the world. Now the Chinese are ready to unveil their astonishing findings within the greatest zoo ever constructed.

A small group of VIPs and journalists has been brought to the zoo deep within China to see these fabulous creatures for the first time. Among them is Dr. Cassandra Jane “CJ” Cameron, a writer for National Geographic and an expert on reptiles. The visitors are assured by their Chinese hosts that they will be struck with wonder at these beasts, that the dragons are perfectly safe, and that nothing can go wrong. Of course it can’t…



*I received a free copy from the publisher via Netgalley, but ended up reading this book in paperback format. My opinions were not influenced.

The Story

The Great Zoo of China seems at first like a Jurassic Park ripoff, because the basic idea is the same. Instead of dinosaurs eating everyone at the park, it’s dragons. The difference, I found, is in the explanation for how the animals were created. In this book, they aren’t cloned. The dragons are captured then bred. The explanation for their emergence made sense. Another difference is that the dragons are highly intelligent, organized, and have a plan for escape.

If I forced myself to stop making Jurassic Park comparisons, I was able to see how The Great Zoo of China was a really good book all on its own. The plot’s pace, organization, and consistency were the strongest aspects of the book.

The Characters

C.J.: Female herpatologist invited to the park under false pretenses

Hamish: C.J.’s brother who comes along as a photographer

Others include journalists, diplomats, Chinese soldiers and officials

The majority of the characters have some backstory but are superficial; I didn’t feel like I ever connected to any of them.

C.J. is too capable in the situations she finds herself. I didn’t really believe she could be as awesome as the author made her out to be. I wanted to see her panic or fail in her attempts at escape or fighting dragons, but she rarely did. Also, her skills seemed extraordinary for someone of her background.

Most of the Chinese characters are drawn negatively. I understand Mr. Reilly’s message about how China lacks cultural influence, but I felt like he took it to an extreme by repeatedly pointing out how the Chinese don’t create anything of their own. I thought the author went too far in making them out as power hungry, inept, and evil. What saved the book, in my opinion, was Reilly’s inclusion of the Chinese child and the Chinese worker who were not villainous. At least all the Chinese weren’t portrayed as bad guys.

As far as all the characters go, I liked the dragons the best. For the most part, I didn’t care what happened to the human characters. But when one of the dragons was hurt, I was very concerned. I think this is because C.J. (the star of the book) seems to be too much of a superheroine for me to worry about her safety. And the other humans are either underdeveloped or villains.

The Writing

I couldn’t get used to the multitude of exclamation points. They drew my attention to the author instead of what was going on in the story. Another problem I made note of is the repetitive use of certain words in different forms like sick, sickening, and sickened. Otherwise, I enjoyed Reilly’s writing style, and I appreciated the fast pacing.


Do I Recommend?

I recommend The Great Zoo of China, but I warn readers to not expect character depth or plausibility. If you like dragons and danger, you should give this book a try. I enjoyed it despite my lack of attachment to the characters.

My Rating for THE GREAT ZOO OF CHINA: 4 out of 5 stars (B)


To see more about thrillers, please visit our Suspense page, which includes book recommendations, a review index, and more.

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About Jen Schaper

In addition to being a book blogger, I am a mother of three children, a retail backroom coordinator, and a wannabe writer (when I make time to do it).
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